Dr Rea Prouska: How can employers meet staff benefits needs in the current environment?


The current Covid-19 (Coronavirus) and Brexit crises are creating multiple challenges for employers. While business survival takes precedence in employer agendas, there are crucial employee consequences that also need to be addressed. These include the impact of adverse working conditions on employee motivation, job satisfaction, performance, productivity and on the overall physical, psychological and social wellbeing of employees.

Research published by myself, Alexandros Psychogios, Margarita Nyfoudi, Nicholas Theodorakopoulos and Leslie Szamosi in July 2019, Many hands lighter work? Deciphering the relationship between adverse working conditions and organization citizenship behaviours in small and medium‐sized enterprises during a severe economic crisis, highlighted the major issues employers and employees face in extreme economic turbulence.

Employers, therefore, need to think about how to create a positive experience for employees in their organisation within an increasingly challenging external climate, by ensuring that the workplace enables employees to feel happy about their work environment and conditions of work.

One particular focus in such challenging times is employee rewards. Total reward strategies not only include financial, but also non-financial rewards. Because the opportunity for employers to offer financial rewards are limited at times of extreme economic uncertainty, non-financial rewards present a viable alternative. This is especially the case for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) that are particularly vulnerable to external shocks, while at the same time are characterised by informality in HR practices.

Some alternative practices to be considered for engaging employees include re-thinking management styles. For example, participative management practices aimed at involving employees in decision-making and giving employees a ‘voice’ are more positively perceived by employees than authoritarian management styles.

Work-life balance practices are another alternative, for example, offering greater flexibility in working time, improved leave entitlements, career breaks, and assistance with caring responsibilities, will create a more positive experience of employees with work. Finally, although training and development budgets are usually significantly hit during economic uncertainty, offering coaching and mentoring schemes and career development opportunities via succession planning may also be effective alternative solutions to engage employees in times of crisis.

Dr Rea Prouska is associate professor of human resource management at London South Bank University, LSBU Business School